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Florida’s hospitality industry cautions against minimum wage hike during pandemic

In November, voters will weigh in on Amendment 2

Florida restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality industry continue to suffer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Florida restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality industry continue to suffer due to the coronavirus pandemic. (Capitol News Service)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida restaurants and other businesses in the hospitality industry continue to suffer due to the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 2,000 restaurants have closed their doors, and industry groups fear even more could be at risk if Floridians approve a minimum wage hike in November.

An opposition campaign to Amendment 2 is already underway.

John Horne owns four restaurants in and around Bradenton.

“We’ve been in business for almost 25 years,” said Horne, president of Anna Maria Oyster Bars.

He’s been able to make ends meet through the pandemic.

“We’ve got a good, local, loyal following,” said Horne.

In November, voters will weigh in on Amendment 2, which would raise Florida’s minimum wage from the current $8.56 an hour to $10 an hour on Sept. 30, 2021. It would increase $1 a year until reaching $15 an hour. After that, it would increase each year based on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers.

Horne said, if it passes, it could be a death blow.

“Can I raise my prices $651,000 a year? Not and keep the same number of guests,” Horne said. “So when my guest count goes down, my hours will go down, so people will start losing jobs.”

The Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association has predicted the wage hike would cause one out of three Florida restaurants to close for good.

“It’s a lethal blow to Florida’s jobs, Florida’s economy, Florida’s businesses. We’re all on life support right now in our jobs,” said Carol Dover, president and CEO of the association. “So why would we want to not have any job? Because that’s where we are headed.”

But Raymer Maguire, campaign manager for Amendment 2, argued the job-killing narrative is overblown.

“We have not seen job loss. We have seen individuals bring home more money and spend that money in the communities they live in. This has helped small and large businesses,” Maguire said.

Because of the pandemic, opposition groups have had a hard time raising money. They face an uphill battle going forward.

Since 1996, voters have approved nine out of ten minimum wage initiatives across the country.